Winning ugly suits Wilmots
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots said his team do not have to play beautiful football to progress in the World Cup, after his side squeezed past Russia in a largely drab 1-0 win this morning (Singapore time) to book their place in the knockout phase.
"To advance in a tournament, you don't always need to be pretty. I believe that you need to be efficient," Wilmots (above) said after the match.
"What counts is that Belgium got a good win and qualified for the second round. Everything else has absolutely no importance."
Brazilian fans jeered the teams during the second half of their Group H match that was littered with mistakes.
But that was before the closing stages when winger Eden Hazard switched on the kind of form that has lit up Chelsea matches this season as he created several late chances.
It was his cross that set up the 88th-minute winner by 19-year-old substitute Divock Origi, who is the youngest player to score in this tournament and the first teenager to net in the World Cup Finals since Lionel Messi in 2006.
Wilmots said that Belgium were the second-youngest team at the World Cup, giving them an edge in the heat of Brazil as games go into their closing stages.
Belgium also scored two goals in the last 20 minutes to beat Algeria in their first game.
"Why did it change? Because we were physically stronger," Wilmots said.
"There's something clear in football. Levels of physical fitness count in a World Cup."
Hazard said that his fitness helped him settle games.
"I know how to make the difference. When I make the difference, I often do it at the end of the match and that shows that I am fresh," he said.
Wilmots said that Belgium would be looking for three more points in their final group match against South Korea, but he might rest players who have picked up yellow cards and who would miss the first knockout match if they were booked again.
Axel Witsel and Toby Alderweireld were cautioned this morning, while Jan Vertonghen was shown a yellow card against Algeria.
Russia coach Fabio Capello said that the 1-0 defeat by Belgium was undeserved and that he still believes his team can progress to the second round.
The Russians have only one point and face a must-win game against Algeria, who have three after beating South Korea 4-2 this morning.
"To be honest, I am very happy with the performance of the team. The result isn't fair but the reality is that we lost," said Capello.
"We had the chances to win. It was a nice game with both teams trying to win. Unfortunately they were the ones able to do it.
Belgium were on top for the opening 45 minutes, but Capello said his team had opportunities to win the game that they failed to make the most of.
"We played a large part of the first half on the counter-attack and we had chances, but we made mistakes with the final pass and maybe we also shot a little too hurriedly," said the Italian.
"But in the second half, the team were almost bossing the game.
"The reality is that when Belgium go forward on the break, they are very dangerous." - Reuters.
He’s in a good space right now, he’s 19 years old. It was a bit of a surprise since he was an unknown before I selected him. Now everyone knows who he is.
— Belgium coach Marc Wilmots, on his match-winner Divock Origi